City County Building Christmas Tree PittsburghDowntown Pittsburgh is a beautiful sight this time of year. The 55 foot tall blue spruce tree stands tall between the columns at the entrance of the City County Building. A glowing menorah stands proudly to the right, and holiday wreaths so large they can only be hoisted by a crane hang from above.

Yet, just a city block away, the empty windows in the old Kaufmann’s building are a stark reminder that the holiday spirit has dwindled like the remnants of an abandoned campfire fading to ash.

This isn’t a bah humbug, and the Grinch hasn’t stolen Christmas entirely. The holiday season Downtown isn’t quite what it used to be, but there are still things to do before, on, and after Christmas Day.

  • While you’re admiring the decorations at the City County Building, talk a stroll down Grant Street to the courtyard of the US Steel Building where you’ll see one of the largest nativity scenes in the world. The Pittsburgh Crèche was built in response to a 1989 court ruling that banned the nativity scene from appearing in front of the Allegheny County courthouse. It is the only authorized replica of the nativity scene in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome and spans 64 feet wide, 36 feet wide, and stands 42 feet high. This exhibit runs from Light Up Night through early January. Learn more here.
  • A visit to the Santa Clauses from around the world is a longstanding tradition in the PPG Place atrium. They have a 36 foot tree surrounded by gingerbread houses made by locals. There’s also a Crazy Mocha location inside, so it’s perfect for warming up to a hot chocolate or vanilla latte while you explore the exhibit. This event goes on from November 16th, 2018 through January 2, 2019. Hours and info here.
  • The lack of department stores Downtown doesn’t help the hustle and bustle holiday shopping, but the Pittsburgh Christmas Market (let’s just ignore that this event has a boring name like People’s Gas Holiday Market) in Market Square is a nice place to browse for gifts after a date. This runs from November 16th, 2018 through December 23rd. More info here.
  • A visit to the Santa Clauses around the world is a longstanding tradition in the PPG Place atrium. This exhibit goes on from November 16th, 2018 through January 2, 2019. Hours and info here.
  • The Nutcracker ballet at the Benedum Center is another must-do event Downtown during the holidays. This year, the show runs from November 30th through December 27, 2018. Buy tickets here.